Mental Health Support for RefugeesThe global refugee crisis is becoming more and more widespread. In 2017, there were 2.9 million asylum seekers and this represented the biggest single-year rise in history. Those who fall victim to war, natural disaster, and famine are displaced and seek to find security in other countries. Their fleeing journey comes with many hardships, some of which provoke serious mental trauma during these vulnerable times. This text underlines the importance of mental health support for refugees.

Mental problems of refugees

When leaving the host country, refugees seek out protection camps and detention centers where they are placed in the uncertain housing and are at risk of being displaced from their families. Challenges that arise from resettlement are a loss of culture, community, or feeling ostracized from the current environment. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in refugees range from 10 to 40 percent. Children, on the other hand, experience these symptoms in even higher figures, from 50 to 90 percent.

When refugees arrive in other countries, they are subject to screenings for physical illnesses. In 2010, only 18 percent of refugee mental health coordinators used effective screening to identify mental illnesses. Barriers to mental health support for refugees include lack of access to interpreters, lack of access to mental health centers in poor, needy communities, shortages of mental health professionals in native countries and many more as well.

Providing mental health support to refugees in America

Centers across the U.S. are also providing mental health support for refugees. Bellevue Hospital in New York City created the program Survivors of Torture to assist asylum seekers and others who had a misfortune to be victims of torture. This is incredibly important, as 50 percent of refugees have experienced some form of torture.

California Department of Health screens refugees for signs of mental trauma as well as physical conditions. Today, about half of the states in the U.S. have mental health screenings. The Minnesota Department of Health helps refugees resettle and successfully integrates them into the community. The Harvard Program in Mental Trauma brings advances of modern medicine to refugees who desperately need mental attention.

Mental health support to refugees in other countries

Mental health experts around the world are working with UNHCR and non-governmental organizations to ensure refugees receive the help they deserve. Some organizations include:

  1. Psycho-Social Services and Training Institute in Cairo. Founded by Nancy Baron in 2009, the institute delivers mental health service to low-income communities in the Middle East.
  2. Syria Bright Future. Mohammad Abo-Hilal was an asylum seeker who fled from Jordan in 2011. He founded Syrian Bright Future to train volunteers to identify mental health symptoms. This non-profit organization recently expanded to other countries and provides immediate services to refugees.
  3. Center for Mind and Body Medicine. The organization specializes in holistic approaches to trauma such as meditation and mindfulness behavioral programs.

Due to the problematic refugee crisis around the world, mental health support for refugees in needed more than ever. Through programs like cognitive behavioral therapy to art mindfulness, professionals are finding ways to help refugees combat traumas. These programs can provide refugees with the necessary mental health support they need.

Lilly Hershey-Webb
Photo: Flickr